US spaceship lying sideways after dramatic Moon touchdown

US spaceship lying sideways after dramatic Moon touchdown
This image courtesy of Intuitive Machines, shows Intuitive Machines' Odysseus lunar lander wide field of view image of Schomberger crater on the Moon approximately 125 miles (200 km) uprange from the intended landing site, at approximately about 6 miles (10 km) altitude during the IM-1 mission on February 22, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 24 February 2024
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US spaceship lying sideways after dramatic Moon touchdown

US spaceship lying sideways after dramatic Moon touchdown
  • The Odysseus spacecraft landed near the lunar south pole Thursday at 6:23 p.m. Eastern Time
  • The firm behind landing initially posted on social media that its hexagonal spaceship was upright

WASHINGTON: The first American spaceship to the Moon since the Apollo era is probably lying sideways following its dramatic landing, the company that built it said Friday, even as ground controllers work to download data and surface photos from the uncrewed robot.

The Odysseus spacecraft landed near the lunar south pole Thursday at 6:23 p.m. Eastern Time (2323 GMT), after a nail-biting final descent when ground teams had to switch to a backup guidance system and took several minutes to establish radio contact after the lander came to rest.

Intuitive Machines, the company behind this first-ever lunar landing by a private company, initially posted on social media that its hexagonal spaceship was upright, but CEO Steve Altemus told reporters on Friday that statement was based on misinterpreted data.

Instead, it appears that it caught a foot on the surface and tipped over, coming to rest horizontally with its top perched on a small rock — taking some shine off an accomplishment widely hailed as a historic achievement.

A NASA probe called the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter should be able to photograph Odysseus over the weekend, helping pinpoint its exact location.

Altemus said that while solar arrays were on the top-facing side, the team’s ability to download data from the science experiments on board was being hampered because of antennas facing downward that “are unusable for transmission back to Earth — and so that really is a limiter in our ability to communicate and get the right data down so we get everything we need for the mission.”

Because of complications associated with the landing, a decision was taken not to shoot out an external camera to capture the descent as it happened, according to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which built the “EagleCam” device.

But the team will still attempt to deploy it from the ground to try to obtain an outside image of Odysseus.

Odysseus is still considered the first success for a new fleet of NASA-funded lunar landers designed to carry out science experiments that will pave the way for the return of American astronauts to the Moon later this decade, under the Artemis program.

A moonshot by another American company last month ended in failure, raising the stakes to demonstrate that private industry has what it takes to repeat a feat last achieved by US space agency NASA during its manned Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

Underlining the technical challenges, Intuitive Machines’ own navigation technology failed and ground engineers were forced to jury-rig a solution, hastily writing a software patch to switch to an experimental NASA laser guidance system that was intended to run only as a technology demonstration.

Altemus later revealed Odysseus’ own laser system failed to turn on because someone had forgotten to flip a safety switch before takeoff, which he described as “an oversight on our part.”

Confirmation of landing was supposed to come seconds after the milestone, but instead around 15 minutes passed before a faint signal was detected, enough to declare the spaceship was in one piece and had met its goal.

NASA paid Intuitive Machines $118 million to ship six experiments under an initiative which delegates cargo services to the private sector in a bid to achieve savings and stimulate a wider lunar economy.

Odysseus also carries cargo for private customers, including a reflective heat wrapping developed by Columbia Sportswear and used to protect the spaceship’s cryogenic propulsion tank.

The United States, along with international partners, want to develop long-term habitats on the south pole, harvesting ice there for drinking water — and for rocket fuel for eventual onward voyages to Mars.

The first crewed landing under NASA’s Artemis program is set to take place no sooner than 2026. China meanwhile plans to put its first crew on the Moon in 2030, opening a new era of space competition.

The mission was the fourth attempt at soft lunar touchdown by the private sector. Intuitive Machines joins the national space agencies of the Soviet Union, United States, China, India and Japan in an exclusive club of landing on the Moon.


Pakistan, Iran agree to ban ‘terrorist organizations,’ exchange intelligence

Pakistan, Iran agree to ban ‘terrorist organizations,’ exchange intelligence
Updated 23 April 2024
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Pakistan, Iran agree to ban ‘terrorist organizations,’ exchange intelligence

Pakistan, Iran agree to ban ‘terrorist organizations,’ exchange intelligence
  • Interior ministers of Pakistan, Iran agree on joint action plan to deal with “terrorism,” says state media 
  • Both representatives agree to ensure effective border management, prevent smuggling and trafficking of drugs 

ISLAMABAD: The interior ministers of Pakistan and Iran on Monday decided to ban “terrorist organizations” in their respective countries, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report, as both countries move to bolster strained ties during Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s ongoing visit to Pakistan. 

Pakistan and Iran have had a history of rocky relations despite a number of commercial pacts, with Islamabad being historically closer to Saudi Arabia and the United States. Pakistan and Iran are also often at odds over instability on their shared porous border, with both countries routinely trading blame for not rooting out militancy.

Tensions surged in January when Pakistan and Iran exchanged airstrikes, both claiming to target alleged militant hideouts in each other’s countries. Both sides have since then undertaken peace overtures and restored bilateral ties.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi and his Iranian counterpart, Dr. Ahmad Vahidi, met in Islamabad on Monday to discuss bilateral issues and matters of mutual interests. 

“Pakistan and Iran on Monday decided in principle to ban terrorist organizations in their respective countries,” the APP said.

“The two sides agreed on a joint plan of action to deal with the menace of terrorism being a common problem, with further improving mutual support and exchange of intelligence information.”

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi and his Iranian counterpart, Dr. Ahmad Vahidi, meet in Islamabad, Pakistan on April 22, 2024. (PID)

The two representatives decided to sign a security agreement regarding their decision “at the earliest,” the state-run media said. 

Naqvi and Dr. Vahidi also decided to increase cooperation in border management and take steps to prevent smuggling and trafficking of drugs.

“Minister Naqvi said that smuggling was a cause of economic loss for both countries and its prevention through border management would help promote mutual trade,” the APP said. “The two sides also agreed to activate the border markets as soon as possible.”

It was also decided that Iran would extend all possible facilities to Pakistani pilgrims who visit Karbala in Iraq for the Arbaeen pilgrimage. The Iranian interior minister invited Naqvi to visit Iran to assess the arrangements. 

Both sides also agreed to waive fines imposed on their nationals imprisoned in each other’s country.

Raisi arrived in Islamabad on Monday for a three-day visit to Pakistan, accompanied by his spouse and a high-level delegation of cabinet members and businesspersons. The two countries signed eight accords and memorandums of agreement in trade, technology, health, culture, information and judicial matters. Both countries agreed to enhance bilateral trade to $10 billion. 

The Iranian president met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari and army chief General Syed Asim Munir on Monday. He is scheduled to visit Pakistan’s southern port city Karachi, also its commercial hub, on Tuesday and meet the country’s provincial leadership there. 


Pakistani, UAE officials perform groundbreaking of bulk and general cargo terminal in Karachi

Pakistani, UAE officials perform groundbreaking of bulk and general cargo terminal in Karachi
Updated 28 min 4 sec ago
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Pakistani, UAE officials perform groundbreaking of bulk and general cargo terminal in Karachi

Pakistani, UAE officials perform groundbreaking of bulk and general cargo terminal in Karachi
  • Pakistan’s maritime affairs minister says UAE’s investment an important “breakthrough” that has increased interest of other players
  • Multi-purpose terminal will handle grains, fertilizers and other kinds of export and import, says official of company operating terminal

KARACHI: Pakistani and United Arab Emirates (UAE) officials performed the groundbreaking of a $175 million Bulk and General Cargo terminal on Monday, describing it as an “important breakthrough” for the South Asian country in the maritime sector. 

Under a government-to-government (G2G) agreement between Pakistan and the UAE earlier this year, a new 25-year concession agreement was signed between AD Ports Group and Karachi Port Trust (KPT) in Feb. 2024 to outsource operations of the bulk and general cargo terminal.

Under the terms of the agreement, Karachi Gateway Terminal Multipurpose Limited (KGTML), a joint venture between AD Ports Group, as a majority shareholder, and Kaheel Terminals, a UAE-based company, will develop, operate and manage the Bulk and General Cargo Terminal, berths 11 to 17 at Karachi Port’s East Wharf. The move is expected to enhance Karachi’s position as a key player in the maritime industry.

Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh, Pakistan’s minister of maritime affairs, unveiled the KGTML plaque at Karachi Port on Monday, describing the UAE’s investment as a “very important breakthrough” which has increased the interest of other players in the maritime sector.

“This investment from Abu Dhabi Ports is very important for Pakistan, it is a breakthrough,” Sheikh told Arab News at the sidelines of the event. “It is the first investment in terminal and following this, there are many other companies who are also interested in Pakistan.”

The minister shared that Maersk Line, the largest owner and operator of US flag vessels, has also expressed interest in investing in Pakistan.

“We are looking forward to investment from other companies like, you see, other shipping lines,” Sheikh said. “We are having a meeting (on Apr. 25) with Maersk Line and we are also expecting (investment).”

Khurram Aziz Khan, KGTL’s chief executive officer, said AD Ports plans to invest about $157 million for the bulk terminal’s development, adding that it would handle all kinds of bulk cargo.

“This is basically a multi-purpose terminal which will not only handle grains but also fertilizers and other kinds of export and import, dirty or clean cargo as well,” Khan told Arab News.

“We are making a long-term investment to make it a regional hub not only for containers but also for the multi-purpose facilities,” Khan explained, adding that the project, once completed, will also save the time and cost of doing business.

He informed that AD Ports has an overall plan of investing about $395 million in the development of the container and cargo terminal.

“We have an overall plan of $220 million investment in the container terminal and $175 million of investment in the multi-purpose bulk terminal,” the KGTL chief said.

AD Ports Group also presented Sheikh a cheque for the upfront fee payment amounting to $50 payable to KPT as per the terms outlined in the Agreement for Outsourcing of Operations of Bulk and General Cargo Terminal.

Abdul Aziz Baloshi, chief executive officer of Fujairah Terminals, AD Ports Group, said the group was expanding its operations in Pakistan.

“Progress will be made through investment in the supply chain,” Baloshi said at the event. “Karachi port is the future of Pakistan and Pakistan is included in our priority list in the region.”

UAE’s Consul General Bakheet Atiq Al-Remeithi said Emirati investors are interested in investing on a large scale in Pakistan. He said their areas of interest included ports and shipping, railways, and other infrastructure.

“Apart from port investments, investments will be made in railway infrastructure, export zones, and other sectors,” Al-Remeithi shared.

 The port operator hoped that the facilities will help Pakistan become the regional hub for handling export and import of cargoes from Central Asian countries.

The agreement for the construction of the Bulk and General Cargo terminal at the Karachi port was based on the concession agreement secured by AD Ports Group to develop, operate and manage container terminal at berths 6-10 at Karachi port’s East Wharf in June 2023.

AD Ports Group had signed a 50-year concession agreement with KPT to secure the terminal’s operations. 


Met Office forecasts fresh rains in Pakistan, warns of flash floods and landslides

Met Office forecasts fresh rains in Pakistan, warns of flash floods and landslides
Updated 23 April 2024
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Met Office forecasts fresh rains in Pakistan, warns of flash floods and landslides

Met Office forecasts fresh rains in Pakistan, warns of flash floods and landslides
  • Windstorms and lightning may affect human lives, crops, loose structures, vehicles and solar panels
  • Met Office asks tourists to avoid unnecessary travel, farmers to manage crops accordingly on Apr. 24-29

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) on Monday said a fresh spell of rains was likely to hit parts of Pakistan this week, warning of flash floods and landslides in the country’s western regions.

A westerly wave is likely to enter western parts of the country on April 24 and grip most upper parts on April 26, according to a statement issued by the PMD.

As a result, rains, wind- or thunderstorms are expected in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh as well as Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir between April 24 and April 29.

“Isolated/moderate to heavy rainfall may generate flash flood in local nullahs/Streams of Balochistan specially (Noushki, Pishin, Harnai, Zhob, Barkhan, Gwadar, Kech and Awaran) on 26th & 27th April, while Dir, Swat, Chitral, Manshera, Kohistan and Kashmir on 27th and 28th April,” the statement read.

“Possibility of landslides in Upper Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Murree, Galiyat, Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan may affect the vulnerable locations from 27th to 29th April.”

During this period, the Met Office said, windstorm and lightning could affect human lives, crops, loose structures like electric poles, vehicles and solar panels.

“Farmers especially in wheat harvested areas are advised to manage their crops keeping in view the weather conditions,” it added.

“Tourists are advised to avoid unnecessary traveling particularly from 26h to 29th April.”

Pakistan has witnessed days of extreme weather, killing at least 78 people and destroying property and farmland. Experts say the country is experiencing heavier rains than normal in April because of climate change.

In 2022, downpours swelled rivers and at one point flooded a third of Pakistan, killing 1,739 people. The floods also caused $30 billion in damages, from which Pakistan is still trying to rebuild.


Pakistani officials say Makkah Route initiative approved for Karachi airport

Pakistani officials say Makkah Route initiative approved for Karachi airport
Updated 53 min 25 sec ago
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Pakistani officials say Makkah Route initiative approved for Karachi airport

Pakistani officials say Makkah Route initiative approved for Karachi airport
  • The initiative allows for the completion of immigration procedures at the pilgrims’ country of departure
  • Pakistani pilgrims performing Hajj under government scheme have already been availing facility in Islamabad

KARACHI: Saudi authorities have approved the expansion of the Makkah Route initiative, which is aimed at facilitating Pakistani Hajj pilgrims, to the Karachi airport, Pakistani officials said on Monday.

The statement came a day after a two-member delegation from Saudi Arabia visited the Jinnah International Airport in the southern Pakistani city to inspect facilities and discuss arrangements for the pilgrims.

Launched in 2019, the initiative allows for the completion of immigration procedures at the pilgrims’ country of departure. This makes it possible to bypass long immigration and customs checks upon reaching Saudi Arabia, which significantly reduces the waiting time and makes the entry process smoother and faster.

Pakistani pilgrims performing Hajj under the government scheme have been availing this facility at the airport in Islamabad for the last couple of years and the government wanted the initiative to be extended to other cities as well.

“The Saudis have okayed Jinnah International Airport Karachi,” Saifullah, a spokesperson for the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA), told Arab News.

Gulzar Soomro, director at the Hajj directorate in Karachi, confirmed the development, saying a contract had also been awarded to a company to design the project.

A spokesperson for Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Islamabad could not be immediately reached for confirmation.

During the visit to the Karachi airport on Sunday, the two-member Saudi delegation showed particular interest in the entry process for intending pilgrims and the allocation of immigration space, according to the PCAA. It came weeks after Pakistan’s religious affairs ministry announced completion of a survey for the Makkah Route initiative at the Karachi airport.

The South Asian country expects more than 60 percent of pilgrims performing Hajj this year to benefit from the initiative. People opting for the private Hajj scheme can also avail the facility, given the tour operators providing them services have contacted the Pakistani religious ministry for the purpose.

Saudi Arabia last year restored Pakistan’s pre-pandemic Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims and abolished the upper age limit of 65 years. More than 81,000 Pakistani pilgrims performed Hajj under the government scheme in 2023, while the rest used private tour operators.

This year’s pilgrimage is expected to run from June 14 till June 19.


Pakistan’s Sindh to step up efforts against street crime after dozens killed in Karachi

Pakistan’s Sindh to step up efforts against street crime after dozens killed in Karachi
Updated 22 April 2024
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Pakistan’s Sindh to step up efforts against street crime after dozens killed in Karachi

Pakistan’s Sindh to step up efforts against street crime after dozens killed in Karachi
  • Karachi, the country’s commercial hub, has reported nearly one murder every other day since the start of this year
  • At least 18 killings, including that of an army major, occurred during muggings in the holy fasting month of Ramadan

KARACHI: The government in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province on Monday decided to intensify its efforts against rampant street crime, following the killing of dozens of people in muggings and other violent crimes in the provincial capital this year.

The decision was made at a law and order meeting held at the Chief Minister’s House, which was attended by members of the provincial cabinet, top bureaucrats, provincial and city police chiefs, Karachi Corps Commander Lt Gen Babar Iftikhar and Sindh Rangers Director-General Maj Gen Azhar Waqas.

The development comes after the killing of at least 57 people in Karachi, the country’s commercial hub and home to roughly 30 million people, averaging nearly one murder every other day since the start of this year, according to a tally collected from media reports.

At least 18 of the killings, including that of an army major who was assigned with the Coast Guard, occurred during the holy fasting month of Ramadan. The officer was shot by muggers on March 30 and died after being hospitalized for a week.

“Meeting has decided to take measures to monitor the sale of stolen or snatched mobile phones and vehicles as spare parts or in their complete form in the markets of Karachi,” read a statement issued from the CM House after the huddle.

Officials informed the participants that the police had 467 encounters with criminals this year, in which 67 suspects were killed, 489 were injured and 1,766 were arrested.

Additionally, the police were directed to revamp Madadgar-15 service for reporting crimes.

“The Home Minister announced that an additional 168 vehicles, including 120 motorbikes, would be deployed to enhance the police force’s capabilities,” the statement read.

“The Chief Minister instructed the Inspector General (IG) of police to initiate the E-tagging of repeat offenders.”